When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more here.

Can You Push Start An Automatic?

It’s time to head to work but your automatic car won’t start.

You don’t have a portable jump starter, so what to do now?

Can you push start it like you can with a manual transmission?

And does the automatic transmission type matter?

Is It An Old Car?

If you have an older vehicle, then you just might be able to push start that automatic transmission. Though, it’s not exactly the wisest decision since it takes a lot of speed (faster than you can push).

How old does the vehicle need to be? Pretty old. Like old school old.

You see, back in the day, some of the first automatics had the pump at the rear of the transmission – and those you can push start. If the car is rolling in gear, then the rear pump would provide pressure even if the engine was not running.

You’ll need quite a bit of speed, 15 to as much 30mph recommended for some makes, to transmit enough torque through the torque converter to turn the engine for starting.

All automatic cars through 1958 and some into the mid 1960s were push startable, some examples are GM’s hydramatic through 1958, Chevrolet’s powerglide through 1966, Fordomatic/Cruseomatic through 1963 and some Fords through early 1968, Chrysler’s Torqueflite through 1965.

But the more modern automatic transmissions cannot be push started as a result of the design change. One exception to this is the Classic Mini Automatic (also Austin America). It has an additional pump on the drive side of the clutches so that it can build the necessary pressure to start it. This transmission is actually also the oil pan, and uses engine oil.

When Your Automatic Transmission Won’t Start

As you can see, there is no real hope of bump starting an automatic transmission. So, if you find yourself sitting in your vehicle and the engine won’t roll over, it’s time for you to find a way to jump start it.

To jump start an automatic transmission, you have two options –

  • Use jumper cables with another vehicle
  • Use a portable jump starter

Regardless of which one of these options you choose to go with, the process is pretty much the same.

how to jump start a car
image via Infinity

You’ll connect the alligator clips to the positive terminals and then the negative terminals. Once you do that, you turn on the other car (or the portable unit). After a few minutes pass, try starting your vehicle.

Meineke How-To: Jump-Start Your Car

What If It Still Won’t Start?

In some instances, you may discover that even trying to jump start that automatic transmission doesn’t work for you. So, now what?

Replace The Battery

It’s possible that the battery needs to be replaced. If you pay for a service like AAA Auto Club, then you can call them to have a batter brought out to you and put into your vehicle.

If that’s not an option for you, then call a friend or family member to to car battery shopping for you and bring it back to you.

Check The Alternator

You may have a bad alternator instead of a bad battery – I had this happen once on a road trip to Cleveland. You’ll need to get the alternator checked by a mechanic.

You can get the vehicle towed to a local mechanic or directly to the auto dealership.

Get The Vehicle Towed

If you’re not at home, or if you want the vehicle moved to a mechanic’s shop, then you should get it towed. This is another instance where you can use your AAA Auto Club membership.

Keep in mind that towing a vehicle can be expensive, and with AAA memberships only the Plus level includes a lengthy towing haul at no extra cost.

Your auto insurance may also cover the towing cost, so be sure to look into that before shelling out the cash.

Final Thoughts

Cars with automatic transmissions also have special fluid clutches that don’t deliver power if the parts are turning slowly. This is what allows a car to be stopped at a stoplight with the engine turning over slowly, and not go anywhere. Correspondingly, pushing a car at walking/running speed won’t transmit enough power from the wheels to the engine to get it started.

That’s why you have to use jumper cables or a portable jump starter to get your automatic vehicle moving again.